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NIEHS/NTP postdocs win at NC SOT meeting

By Eddy Ball
November 2010

Melanie Foster
Melanie Foster, the 2010-2011 president of the NC SOT, presided over the meeting and awards ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Darol Dodd
The current vice president of the NC SOT, Darol Dodd, organized the meeting and introduced the speakers. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

left to right are Melanie Foster, Zhengyu Yin, Ph.D., Yang Sun, Ph.D., and Yuanyuan Xu, M.D., Ph.D.
The NC SOT president congratulated the NIEHS/NTP postdocs on their exceptional research this year. From left to right are Foster, Yin (third place), Sun (second place), and Xu (first place). (Photo courtesy of Mike Hughes, EPA)

Victor Garcia-Martinez, Ph.D.
Victor Garcia-Martinez (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Pedro Baptista
Pedro Baptista (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS and NTP postdoctoral fellows dominated the competition for the President's Award for Research Competition at the North Carolina Regional Chapter of the Society of Toxicology (NC SOT) ( Exit NIEHS Fall Meeting Oct. 7 at NIEHS. The first order of business at the annual event was presentation of awards before a near-capacity audience that included NIEHS/NTP Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., and many members of the NTP, along with members from other organizations involved in toxicology.

As first place winner, visiting fellow Yuanyuan Xu, M.D., Ph.D., received a cash award of $500 and the opportunity to give a 20-minute presentation of her research at the meeting. Xu is a member of the National Toxicology Program Cellular and Molecular Pathology Branch, headed by research pharmacologist Michael Waalkes, Ph.D. She was first author on a study titled "Epithelia Malignantly Transformed by Arsenic or Cadmium Drives Nearby Normal Stem Cells Towards a Malignant Phenotype," with co-authors Erik Tokar, Ph.D., and Waalkes.

With her second-place win, visiting fellow Yang Sun, Ph.D., received a cash award of $250 and recognition by NC SOT. Sun is also a member of the Waalkes group. She is first author on a study titled "Overabundance of Putative Cancer Stem Cells in Human Skin Keratinocyte Cells Malignantly Transformed by Arsenic."

The third place winner is Visiting Fellow Zhengyu Yin, Ph.D., a member of the NIEHS Cell Biology Group headed by Principal Investigator Anton Jetten, Ph.D. Yin received a cash of award of $100 for his paper titled "RAP80 Plays a Critical Role in Maintaining Genomic Stability." Jetten was a coauthor.

The NC SOT meeting was organized around the theme of "Bioengineered Cellular and Animal Models for Toxicology." Following a presentation by first place winner Xu, attendees heard talks by senior scientists on the leading edge of bioengineering:

  • "Humanized Mice as Tools for Basic and Translational Research" by Victor Garcia-Martinez, Ph.D. ( Exit NIEHS, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for AIDS Research. According to Garcia-Martinez, inoculating immune system knock out mice with human stem cells allows researchers to exactly replicate the human phenotype in response to HIV infection, transmission, and treatment in efforts to test safety and efficacy of treatments and aid in drug development.
  • "How to Make a Liver for Dummies" by Pedro Baptista of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine ( Exit NIEHS. Baptista discussed efforts underway to use cell therapy to replace damaged urinary bladder tissue or implant a device in the body to take over liver function. These methods help address the shortage of donated organs for transplantation and increase available options in the treatment of traumatic and battlefield injuries.

With 322 members, NC SOT is one of the largest regional chapters of SOT. It is preparing a regional chapter poster and time capsule as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of SOT next March in Washington, D.C.

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